Gov. Steve Sisolak announced today efforts the state is taking to combat the spread of the coronavirus, including closing state offices to the public, freezing hiring and expanding paid administrative leave.
Sisolak called for unity in fighting the spread of the virus. Health officials have identified 25 cases statewide, including 16 in Clark County.
After the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, “the citizens of this state showed the nation what it meant to stand together, to unite against all odds and put our neighbors before ourselves,” Sisolak said at a new conference Sunday night.
“Tonight, I am asking my fellow Nevadans to do it with more commitment and more compassion than ever before,” he said.
Here is some of what the governor said:
State offices will be closed to the public “as soon as possible,” Sisolak said, though the timing will depend on the office.
“For essential services like unemployment insurance, the DMV, Medicaid, welfare and others, I am directing agency leadership to wind down in-person public services and transition as much of the work as possible to online and over-the-phone services in the coming days,” he said.
Sisolak said the leaders of state agencies can decide how to best implement the order.
“Often, there is no one-size-fits-all approach,” he said. “With that in mind, I am delegating to executive branch state agency leadership the authority to decide what works best for their offices and employees, whether that means office closures for all nonessential employees, the implementation of teleworking or a hybrid approach.”
The state will also implement a hiring freeze and encourage state agencies to limit spending to “essential, emergency purchases.”
“Underlying all of these actions is an important precautionary measure that has been shown to mitigate the spread of the virus in other states and all around the world — social distancing,” Sisolak said.
Sisolak said he was in contact with Democratic and Republican leadership on a state level to determine necessary steps to mitigate these changes’ impact to the state. He did not rule out calling a special legislative session.
Private businesses and casinos
Sisolak gave multiple recommendations for private businesses. He said employees with the ability to work from home should do so, and ill employees “must absolutely” stay home.
“Social distancing is not one-size-fits-all,” Sisolak said. “What works for one community in our state will not work for another. There needs to be great focus in the approaches we take to reduce disease transmission.”
Earlier Sunday, MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts announced they would be suspending operations on the Strip. While Sisolak did not call for all casinos to close, he said he supports the decisions made by the owners.
“I encourage these licensees to do their best to protect paid benefits of their (employees) during these difficult times,” Sisolak said.
MGM Chairman and CEO Jim Murren said in a statement today that this “is a time of uncertainty across our country and the globe and we must all do our part to curtail the spread of this virus.”
“We will plan to reopen our resorts as soon as it safe to do so and we will continue to support our employees, guests, and communities in every way that we can during this period of closure,” Murren said.
Sisolak also called for local governments to cut down on the number of people in public spaces.
“I am asking local governments to enforce a new provision of 50 percent or less capacity of any public gathering space presently allowed by the fire marshals,” he said. “Fewer people in a room with a larger distance between them is the only way to decrease the risk of spread.”
Sisolak announced earlier Sunday that all K-12 schools in Nevada would remain closed until at least April 6. He stressed that students shouldn’t see the school closures as a vacation and need to take the situation seroiusly.
“I grew up in Wisconsin, and the excitement me and my friends would feel when a snow day was called — it meant we could goof off and have a free day. That’s not what this is,” he said. “This is not an extended spring break.”
Data shows younger people are less susceptible to the virus, Sisolak said. But young people “can still be exposed to this virus and pass it on to others — to your mom, your dad, your grandparents, those you love,” he said.
At an earlier news conference, Sisolak said schools will not be allowed to reopen until they get permission from the state chief medical officer. The closures apply to public, charter and private schools.
Decisions and guidelines for daycares and preschools will come at a later date, Sisolak said.